Friday, October 7, 2016

October 7 - Sappho


Little is known for sure about her life, but the Greek poet Sappho is believed to have been alive from about 630 - 570 BCE. She lived on the island of Lesbos and wrote lyric poetry, believed to be the first expressing female homoeroticism. She was highly regarded during her time, sometimes referred to as "The Tenth Muse," though much of her poetry is now lost (of the 10,000 lines she was believed to have written, only 650 survive). The term "lesbian" is a direct allusion to Sappho, who wrote of the daily lives and relationships between the women she educated on Lesbos... as well as their physical beauty. Though she and her poems were often portrayed as heterosexual prior to the 19th century, or her preoccupation with her girls explained away as the passion of a schoolteacher for her students, modern interpretation generally accepts Sappho as being attracted to women (and possibly to men as well, as the Greeks didn't always discriminate when it came to sexual activity). Sappho is considered one of Greece's greatest ancient poets, her form so unique that the Sapphic stanza is named for her. Though so little of her poetry survives, new fragments are frequently being discovered, mostly recently in 2014.

You: an Achilles' apple
Blushing sweet on a high branch
At the tip of the tallest tree.
You escaped those who would pluck
         your fruit.
Not that they didn't try. No,
They could not forget you
Poised beyond their reach.

(Fragment 105(a) translated by Anita George)

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